Boulder was a playground today.  (From the top of Sanitas Valley)

Boulder was a playground today.  (From the top of Sanitas Valley)

When I awoke in London on Thursday, the 6th of October, I found a text on my iPhone, “Sad Day” left by a colleague and friend who I had convinced years ago to give up his PC for a 15” MacBook Pro.  Damn, I thought, and pulling up nytimes.com confirmed that the day we didn’t want to come had finally arrived.
This is the next evening, Friday, outside London’s Regent Street Apple Store near Oxford Circus.  I was struct by the reverence of the spontaneous scenes as groups formed, quietly stood there, and moved on.   I shot several.  This is my favorite.

When I awoke in London on Thursday, the 6th of October, I found a text on my iPhone, “Sad Day” left by a colleague and friend who I had convinced years ago to give up his PC for a 15” MacBook Pro.  Damn, I thought, and pulling up nytimes.com confirmed that the day we didn’t want to come had finally arrived.

This is the next evening, Friday, outside London’s Regent Street Apple Store near Oxford Circus.  I was struct by the reverence of the spontaneous scenes as groups formed, quietly stood there, and moved on.   I shot several.  This is my favorite.

UnBelievable Night in Baseball (Sept 28, 2011)

UnBelievable!!! my friend Mitch Says about the amazing night in baseball this last Wednesday.  Damn.  This is what makes it such a magical sport.

Check out the following for that evening:

Drama of Game 162 never seen before and likely never will again (from Mitch)

A Night of Twists and Collapses

Bill Buckner Strikes Again

Chart of Probability of Red Sox making the playoffs (spotted by Jack)

and also, the NPR story from the next day (audio):

Red Sox Shut Out Of Playoffs As Rays Clinch Wild Card

The Buckner link includes a link to a Youtube of the pre-wildcard Yankee-RedSox game in Boston in 1978.  At the all-star break that year, Redsox had a huge lead over their New York rivals, only to see it collapse and the ended the regular season tied with the Yankees, 99-63, which then required this one extra game to determine the winner of the American League East.  I was a Yankee fan at the time, and a college student in Boston, and was hanging on to one of the billboards behind the green monster for much of the game.

Jonathan Schwartz, a legendary DJ of New York’s WNEW-FM, was a die-hard Red Sox fan, and writer, and penned this amazing piece that appeared in Sports Illustrated back then.  Its now a small book that can be had used for $0.01 on Amazon (plus postage).

Shooting the John Moulton Barn and the Grand Tetons
While I didn’t have magic clouds or weather, this past August, I had the pleasure of finally shooting the famous John Moulton Barn in front of the magnificent Grand Tetons, and here’s what a beginner to the scene learned:
 First of all, the barn is here.  If you’re staying in Jackson or Grand Teton National park, it’s easy to get to the scene quickly in time for the morning light.
In early August, first light hits the barn about a half hour after “sunrise”.  The Sun n Moon app on my iPhone had Sunrise at 6:14am and the barn was bathed in light at 6:42am.
 Pass the driveway, and continue up to pull outs on either side of the road (indicated by “2” in my diagram)
 A 70-200mm is all you’ll need.  I’m not really a landscape photographer — my passion in capturing people.  All I had with me on this trip was a 17-40mm and my 135mm f/2.0 (my favorite lens).  Backing up to spot #2, and using the 135mm, I was just able to get the entire scene in my 5DM2 full frame.  (To me, the comparison with the 40mm shot, that I shot closer to the stream near spot #1 in the map is fascinating.)
Have fun, and I hope you get more interesting weather than I did!
Rocky Mountain Joe® of Boulder, ColoradoSeptember 3, 2011Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0

Shooting the John Moulton Barn and the Grand Tetons

While I didn’t have magic clouds or weather, this past August, I had the pleasure of finally shooting the famous John Moulton Barn in front of the magnificent Grand Tetons, and here’s what a beginner to the scene learned:

  •  First of all, the barn is here.  If you’re staying in Jackson or Grand Teton National park, it’s easy to get to the scene quickly in time for the morning light.
  • In early August, first light hits the barn about a half hour after “sunrise”.  The Sun n Moon app on my iPhone had Sunrise at 6:14am and the barn was bathed in light at 6:42am.
  •  Pass the driveway, and continue up to pull outs on either side of the road (indicated by “2” in my diagram)
  •  A 70-200mm is all you’ll need.  I’m not really a landscape photographer — my passion in capturing people.  All I had with me on this trip was a 17-40mm and my 135mm f/2.0 (my favorite lens).  Backing up to spot #2, and using the 135mm, I was just able to get the entire scene in my 5DM2 full frame.  (To me, the comparison with the 40mm shot, that I shot closer to the stream near spot #1 in the map is fascinating.)
  • Have fun, and I hope you get more interesting weather than I did!

Rocky Mountain Joe® of Boulder, Colorado
September 3, 2011
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0

This is Boulder, Colorado.  I shot this through the windshield, and was lucky enough to get the driver in the rearview mirror.  That a Subaru is in front of this lovely VW, really completes it!  Look at the lines of the the VW Bus itself.  Wonderful design.   I bet it inspired Steve Jobs.  Go CU.

This is Boulder, Colorado.  I shot this through the windshield, and was lucky enough to get the driver in the rearview mirror.  That a Subaru is in front of this lovely VW, really completes it!  Look at the lines of the the VW Bus itself.  Wonderful design.   I bet it inspired Steve Jobs.  Go CU.

Boulder, Colorado

Boulder, Colorado

Flash flood warnings are commonplace this summer along Colorado’s Front Range.  This is a late afternoon storm dumping over Boulder.   I shot it over Boulder’s Openspace in north boulder, racked out at 17mm (f/9).  Post via Topaz Lab’s Adjust.

Flash flood warnings are commonplace this summer along Colorado’s Front Range.  This is a late afternoon storm dumping over Boulder.   I shot it over Boulder’s Openspace in north boulder, racked out at 17mm (f/9).  Post via Topaz Lab’s Adjust.

THE 10 STEPS OF MY APERTURE WORKFLOW
This outlines the primary steps in my Aperture workflow, warts and all, which has evolved slowly since  the summer of 2007 when I began using it to manage and edit my photographs.  One of the strengths of Aperture is how adaptable it is to different ways that photographers work. So I’ll describe here is the workflow that I presently use, not so much as a template for others to take directly, but to explain my approach with my Aperture workflow to perhaps trigger some new thoughts in yours.  I’ll also point out the areas of this workflow that I would like to change, particularly around the way I use offline storage.  Finally, I’ll try to point out places where the workflow could be adapted for different kinds of photographers.

I should first explain the kind of photographer I am, because it has influenced the way I’ve organized my library.  I am primarily a passionate hobbyist and very part time pro shooting family, friends, and the street scenes and landscapes in and around Boulder, Colorado.  I take on both volunteer and paid projects when I can fit them into my my busy schedule that includes raising a family of four, and monthly business travel around the US and internationally (on which I always have my camera along.). I shoot primarily with a Canon 5DM2, but I also capture images and video on my iPhone 4.  In 2009 and 2010, I shot about 50,000 images each year.   

A word about my configuration:  I presently have a creaky pre-unibody 15” Macbook Pro that I bought in London in January 2007.  I’ve upgraded its harddrive to a 7200RPM 320GB drive that contains my Aperture Library.  I use Aperture’s Referenced Masters approach, with my RAW Masters sitting on a Drobo (see ‘Drobo Concerns’ at the end.)  When in my study at home working on my images, I work of an HP 2335 23” LCD monitor that I calibrate not often enough with the Spyder 2 Pro (Since updated.)

Let me also say that I bit intimated to post anything on Aperture as folks like Rob Boyer has done such a stellar job with his posts and eBooks.  Also, Montreal’s Patrick La Roque has contributed excellent posts about Aperture 3.  These guys and others have taught me tons about Aperture along the way.

1. FINDER COPY AND DVD BURN - I have about 12GB worth of compact flash cards that I work with.  Periodically,  sometimes after of a week or so, but sometimes only a weekend, or just one busy day, I’ll decide to do an import, and here are the steps I follow:

Firstly, I use Aperture’s ‘Referenced Masters’ to store my images outside the Aperture Library and on an external drive, a seond generation Drobo.  Using Finder, I create a Folder for the images using the following naming convention:                             2011-03-06 Roll 369M2 Boulder Weekend (I create this folder within an “2011” Folder, with my “Aperture Masters” Folder.)  The date format allows for sorts in time order in a Finder window.  To help in keeping track of them, I’ve taken to also numbering my import sessions and calling them ‘Rolls’. (e.g. ….Roll 639…)  Occasionally,I use other cameras, and the ‘M2’ is my shorthand for my Canon 5DM2, and finally, I put a short descriptor for the main theme if the images of the import (e.g. Hong Kong).  Then, using Finder, I copy all the images from all the cards into this folder. (I think I learned this tip from Allen Wicks, via a post on the Apple Discussions Forum). Sometime in 2011, I hope to move off my Drobo.  See below for my Drobo observations.

Alex Lindsey, via the TWIP podcasts, has taught me that “it doesn’t exist unless it’s in three places,” and for me, presently, one of those places is a backup to DVD.  I use an old version of  Roxio’s Toast to easily burn a Folder of images that Spanish across multiple DVDs.  (See §10 for a more complete description of my backup approach.)  When I do get off my Drobo and on to a pair of hardrives for my masters, I will probably stop burning DVDs as backup.
Only after this copy to my Drobo, and burn to DVD, do I feel comfortable erasing my compact flash cards.  (And when I do, I use “Format” on my Canon 5DM2 to erase the cards — it’s fast.)
2. IMPORT TO APERTURE - At this point, my images are in a Finder Folder on my Drobo (and burned to DVD).  I then use Aperture’s import function as follows:

In Aperture Toolbar, click the Import Icon arrow
The Inspector Pane will slide down to reveal your icons for your Mac (or Compact Flash if still connected)
I select my Mac, and then in the window below, navigate to the Finder Folder that contain the images for this import session (this causes all the images to appear in the import window, already selected.)
In Aperture’s Library Pane, I select the 2011 Projects Folder within my Photostore Folder  (This causes Aperture to automatically use the name of the Finder Folder I navigated to as the Project Name that will be created inside 2011 Projects and contain these images.)
In the Import Settings pane on the right, select the 'Leave Masters in Current Location' option since I use the Referenced Masters approach.
I enter metadata associated with the images to be imported (I primarily add copyright info.)
Finally, I click the ‘Import Checked’ at the bottom of the Import Pane.
Then I go for a run (with my camera :)  Or I do this at the end of the day and head up to bed if it’s a particularly large import.  There is a lot of processing with an import as thumbnails are created, and I don’t try to begin any editing of images until this step is completed. (I would just see the beach all often and get frustrated.  Running is better for me). I sometimes open the Aperture Activity window to keep an eye on import progress.
Also, I save a lot of screenshots on both my iPhone and iPad.  I import these screenshots along with my iPhone photographs and movies into dedicated Projects for iPhone and iPad. Since these images are not as big or as numerous, I simply store these Masters within the Aperture Library.
3. GROUPING INTO ALBUMS - I’ve organized my Aperture Library with the following Aperture Folders at the top level inside Apertures Projects & Albums section, in addition to my Photostore Folder (which holds the Aperture Projects) I have the following Folders:

Clients - Within this Aperture Folder, I create an Aperture Folders for each client shoot.  I’ll name the folder using the format: 2011-03-05 Madison Portrait.  (These  folders will contain albums and smart albums which I’ll describe in the ‘Sifting and  Sorting’ section below.)
Commercial Images - I have special folders for each image or set that I plan to sell commercially apart from Client work.  These contain albums which contain individual images or image sets, typically with multiple versions as I work on them.
Portfolio - Several Albums within this Folder contain my Portfolio.  I organize these by Portraits, Landscapes, Cityscapes, Boulder, Portraits-BW, etc.  These albums get pulled into my iPhone and iPad via iTunes syncing.
Albums - I go nuts on albums (and Smart Albums).  The don’t take up any disk space to speak of, and they provide you another way to find images months and years later.  Within this Albums Folder, some notable folders are:
Sport Seasons - We have four children, and they’re all involved in sports.  I shoot from the sidelines of games I attend.  Within this ‘Sport Seasons’ folder, I have a series of folders, one per season for each of the kids sports, and name them like this:  2011-03 Soccer - Kate.  Within these folders I have a folder for the games I shoot, named in a similar manner: 2011-03-19 Soccer - Kate.  These  folders will contain an album for all the photos from a game and smart albums for rating and sorting which I’ll describe in the ‘Sifting and  Sorting’ section below.
Events - This folder contains folders for Personal Projects and Family events, and are named in my same style, e.g. 2011-03-05 Boulder Velodrome.  
Slideshows - I am of two minds on organizing my slideshows.  Most times, especially if they’re standalone, I create them here, and they’re easy to find.  However, sometimes I create them within a Client or Event folder to preserve that grouping.  
Aperture Books - I’ve produced  over 100 books using the Aperture Book tool, which are lovely.  Sometime I create them with the corresponding Client or Event folders, but most times I create the books within this folder.
4. SIFTING AND SORTING - To quickly identify the best images from my client shoots and personal projects, I use a similar sifting and sorting approach with a series of Aperture Albums and Smart Albums outline below, using a technique taught to me by Boulder’s John Waugh in an Aperture Course that he taught at Boulder Digital Arts last year.

Shoot Album - into this Album, I drag all the images associated with the event from the Aperture Project folder where their masters reside.  I then buzz through the images in this Album and make a simple binary decision: Rate 1 Star, or Skip.  I use the Aperture Shortcuts to either rate the images explicitly (Hitting 1-5 to apply a 1-5 star rating) or I use the ‘CNTL +’ to increase the rating and move to the next image.)
Picks 1+ Smart Album - I create a Smart Album with the rule: Images With Rating greater or equal to 1.  This is automatically populated with the images that I rated “1 Star” in the previous step.  I then go through this set, which are all rated “1 Star or greater”’ and make another simple decision: bump them up to 2 stars, or leave them at 1.
Picks 2+ Smart Album - I repeat this process again, creating this Smart Album for images rated 2 or more stars, and go through them again, making the decision to bump them up another level to 3.  This successive approach is an easy way to cull down to a select set of images from a shoot.   Whether the goal is to select a small set for prints, to create a book, or produce a slideshows, this approach seems to be a fast and reliable way to get to my target number of picks. And a note on the objective itself:  my advice is to cut to the bone!  If you’re not leaving stuff on the cutting room floor that pains you, you’re not cutting enough!  This leaves only excellent images for your books or slideshows, and you’ll get ‘Wows.’
Picks 3+ Smart Album, Picks 4+ Smart Album…..Additional iterations as necessary per the previous step to get down to my targeted number of photos.  
Selects Album - Finally, I drag my final selects into an Album so I have a firm record of the results of the sort.   
Its hard sometimes to leave “good stuff” on the floor, but I’ve learned to cut deep — cut to the bone, and the resulting set of images become much stronger and appreciated.

5. ADJUSTMENTS - At this point, now that I’ve got my selects, I’ll do my edits on that subset.  My long term goal is to get as much right in the camera, but I do touch every image that I release.   Aperture adjustments are a topic to themselves, but I might typically use the following controls: Exposure, White Balance, Levels or Curves, Contrast, and Vibrancy, etc.

I buzz through these, taking about 10-15 seconds per images, but sometimes longer, depending on the nature of the projects.  The point is, even a few quick changes will dramatically improve an image.  Sometimes I ripple changes though several images with Lift and Stamp.  (The ‘Lift’ dialog box let’s you pick the adjustments from the selected image that you want to stamp, and eliminate the ones that would probably not make sense to stamp, like a crop or a rating.)

Since they’re so important to my use of Aperture, I should also say something about my mouse tools.  In the past year, I added a Magic Trackpad to my system as my primary “mouse”   I can place it right where I want it, no longer being limited to the trackpad on my MacBook Pro that is in a relatively fixed location in my workspace.  Coincident with that, I decided to switch mouse hands and give what had been my primary mouse hand a nice long rest.  I surprised even myself, after about only a week, my new mouse hand felt “normal”. I also use a  Wacom Tablet, especially since Aperture 3’s brush in adjustments became available.  

Finally, one of my goals for 2011, is to raise my proficiency with Black and White post production.  I’ve been fascinated by split toning especially after reading Andrew Gibson’s ‘The Magic of Black and White’ series of eBooks, published by Craft and Vision.  In addition to tons of reading on the subject, I’ve added Silver Efex Pro 2 to my toolset, and I love it.  I invoke it from within Aperture, selecting an image, and then using the “Edit With” option.  Upon completion of the Silver Efex Pro editing session, Aperture manages the Silver Efex Pro 2 versions, just as it does it’s other versions.  

And while I go to NIK for special images, I prefer to do adjustments natively in Aperture, which as you peel back the layers of the onion, and open up those disclosure triangles, you will see a wealth of editing power.  Patrick La Rogue in particular showed me the value of Aperture’s wheels  which do many things in addition to, as he has pointed out, Split toning!  Recently, @ltsolet has turned me on to Topaz Labs, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with their Adjust product.

When I’ve completed adjustments on images, I drag some of them into Albums that are located in my ‘Portfolio’ top level Aperture Folder, which I mentioned in Section 3. I have several Albums in this Aperture Folder, for example: Portraits, Landscapes, Portraits-BW.  (These will get synced to my iPad and iPhone — discuss in Section 9.)  I also explicitly create an Aperture Preview for these images, otherwise they will not sync to my iPad or iPhone, or show up in the Mac OS X Media Browser.   I have a massive library of about 250K images, and to conserve space in my Aperture Library which I store on the 320GB Hard Drive on my MacBook Pro, I don’t have Previews automatically generated.

6. APERTURE BOOKS - I love Aperture’s Book Tool and the lovely books that it produces.  I produce them for clients and family vacations, ‘annuals’ and special events (e.g. I just produced an 18-year compendium for our high school graduate.)  Once adjustments are completed, within Aperture, I create an ‘Aperture Book’, drag the versions I may use into it, and layout the book.  When I do adjustments to images that I know will be destined for books, usually don’t crop them (or I also leave an uncropped version when I do) since the book tool let’s you easily zoom in to part of an image when you lay out the book.  Uncropped images gives me the most flexibility as I craft each page layout.  I love the art of the page layout — the composition of each page spread is yet another way to have your photographs shine and tell a story.

7. APERTURE WEB JOURNALS - I need to do a lot more work on my website.  I presently use Aperture Web Journals that I drag into Apple’s iWeb to publish www.rockymountainjoe.com.  I’m considering moving to RapidWeaver to produce a better website, but I need to give this area some more of my attention thank I do now.  This is especially important since we’ve heard of the demise of iWeb (and MobileMe Galleries) since I’ve started writing this!

8. SLIDESHOWS- I used to produce more film-scored photo slideshows, and I used Final Cut Express.  It was a lot of work, and involved an export of images from Aperture, and import into Final Cut.  This was time consuming and burned lots of disk space.  I’m liking the Aperture Slideshow tool these days.  Recently, I’ve become interested in timelapses, and turning a timelapse set into a short video. Aperture’s Slideshow tool is fast and easy and perfect for this..  I drag in the set of images, pick an interval per image, and pull in a song from my iTunes Library via the Mac OS X Media Browser, and it’s ready, and Aperture gives me many options if I want to export it.

9. EXPORT AND PUBLISH – I export my image from Aperture many different ways in addition to direct “exports”. 
a. iWeb – As I mentioned above, I presently use iWeb to produce my website.  It really is stopgap, but its been that way a while.  Within iWeb, using the Mac OS X Media Browser, I can navigate in my Aperture Folder hierarchy and find my Aperture Web Journals. I simply drag them into iWeb webpages, and use iWeb to publish them to my website at www.rockymountainjoe.com.  (As mentioned earlier, R.I.P. iWeb with Apple’s move to Lion and iCloud.)

b. MobileMe Galleries – In addition to my website, I use Aperture’s MobileMe export function to publish images to my web presence with Apple’s MobileMe.  I primarily use this to share images privately with clients.  I usually create an Album of the images I’ll share in this manner, then select all the images in that Album, and click the MobileMe icon in Aperture. (As mentioned earlier, R.I.P. MobileMe Galleries with Apple’s move to iCloud.)

c. Flickr – Every once in a while I’ll publish a set of photos to Flickr.  Similar to the approach I use for MobileMe, I create an Album of the images I’ll share on Flickr, then select all the images in that Album, and click on the Flickr icon.  Occasionally, I’ll drag additional images into an existing Aperture Flickr Album. I’ve seen many people complain about Aperture causing them to lose images on Flickr, but I’ve not had any problems with either of these approaches.  Since I’ve started drafting this, 500px.com has come bursting on the scene, and when I get my confidence, I’ll begin posting there.  At this writing, there is not yet an export plugin for 500px.com.  I’m sure it is  just a matter of time.

d. Facebook – I show the Facebook export option in my diagram above, but I’ve not yet exported and published images this way.  I have both a normal account and a “Fan Page” (www.facebook.com/rockymountainjoe) and I think I’ve seen some folks post that this function only allows them to publish to their account, not their Fanpage.
e/f. Sync to iPad and iPhone – Like many photographers, I like to have my portfolio with me, so I sync the Albums within my Portfolio Aperture Folder to both my iPhone and my iPad.  Within iTunes, I select my iPod or iPad (in Devices) and then select the Photos tab.  On that page, I can tell iTunes to sync photos from Aperture, and once I do that, I see my Aperture Folder Hierarchy and select the Albums (or Projects) that I want to sync. 

I’ve recently started using the FolioBook app on my iPad (upon the recommendation of Patrick La Roque of Montreal.  It’s slick.  On the iPad, I can quickly build a special Portfolio on the fly, and “lock it down” and hand the iPad to a Client.  They can then flip though the images I want them to look at, and not get lost in all the images in the Photo Library on my iPad.


10. VAULTS AND BACKUP
There’s the old quip: “There are two kinds of hard drives:  Those that have failed, and those that will fail.”  I back up several ways, each of these using SuperDuper, which I’ve used for years and highly recommend.  SuperDuper does incremental backups, and gives you an exact copy of your hard drive to a backup. I’m careful to backup my images (the RAW files that come directly from my camera’s compact flash card), as well as the Aperture Library.  As time goes by, the metadata (albums, ratings, adjustments, books, keywords) becomes immensely valuable, and will enable future enjoyment of photographs.

a. Backup Macbook Pro Hard Drive to LaCie Rugged portable Hard Drive - I periodically  perform an incremental backup of my Macbook Pro’s hardrive.  In addition to everything else on my main drive, this drive contains my Aperture Library.  (SuperDuper makes this backup a “bootable” drive.)

b. Update  Aperture Vault to HD-3 - I also used Aperture’s “Vault” feature to backup my Aperture Library to an external drive.   Most of my images are Referenced (see ‘Managed vs. Referenced’ below) but in addition to all the metadata of my Aperture Library, this performs an incremental backup of the masters contained in the library, and of course all the generated previews and thumbnails.

c. Backup HD-3 Hard Drive to HD-5 Hard Drive - The external drive that contains my Aperture Vault also contains my iTunes Music Folder, digital projects and video files.  I use SuperDuper to make a backup of this entire drive.

Drobo Concerns - I have a second generation 4-bay Drobo that started with 1TB drives, and now has four 2TB drives.  Access speeds to the masters are slow as compared to a conventional external hardrive, which is the primary reason I want to move from the Drobo.  I’m also feeling a bit trapped there as I approach the capacity limit of the set of 2B drives.  And because of the RAID-like approach, while I’m protected  from a disk failure, the Drobo doesn’t protect me if the master file was somehow corrupted. (Which for now is why I perform the DVD backup as part of my import process.)  As soon as the price/reliability of a pair of Thunderbolt-based 4TB drives is within my grasp, I’m going to move to them and use SuperDuper for incremental backups.

Managed vs. Referenced - Project-based photographers who work on sets of image, and then deliver to customers and “put them on the shelf”, should consider having Aperture manage their masters.  They can use the Vault periodically to back up their work, and have an “annual” Library approach, creating a new Aperture Library every year.  This would keep library sizes small and give them simple backups.

My approach, using Reference images, works for me because of the kind of photographer I am — I want to have my entire family portfolio at my fingertips, or pull upon my keyworded images for a future project.  With an Aperture Smart Album, I can pull all the images that are keyworded with one of my children’s names, and rated 3 or more stars.  I’ve got a wonderful ‘bumpersticker’ collection that I may do something with someday.   An Aperture Library of my size (250K images) would be massive and not fit on my main drive in my Macbook Pro, which is where I want it for performance reasons.  So I used a Referenced Masters approach and keep my 155GB Aperture Library on my main drive in my Macbook Pro, and my Masters on my Drobo (for now).

THE 10 STEPS OF MY APERTURE WORKFLOW

This outlines the primary steps in my Aperture workflow, warts and all, which has evolved slowly since  the summer of 2007 when I began using it to manage and edit my photographs.  One of the strengths of Aperture is how adaptable it is to different ways that photographers work. So I’ll describe here is the workflow that I presently use, not so much as a template for others to take directly, but to explain my approach with my Aperture workflow to perhaps trigger some new thoughts in yours.  I’ll also point out the areas of this workflow that I would like to change, particularly around the way I use offline storage.  Finally, I’ll try to point out places where the workflow could be adapted for different kinds of photographers.

I should first explain the kind of photographer I am, because it has influenced the way I’ve organized my library.  I am primarily a passionate hobbyist and very part time pro shooting family, friends, and the street scenes and landscapes in and around Boulder, Colorado.  I take on both volunteer and paid projects when I can fit them into my my busy schedule that includes raising a family of four, and monthly business travel around the US and internationally (on which I always have my camera along.). I shoot primarily with a Canon 5DM2, but I also capture images and video on my iPhone 4.  In 2009 and 2010, I shot about 50,000 images each year.   

A word about my configuration:  I presently have a creaky pre-unibody 15” Macbook Pro that I bought in London in January 2007.  I’ve upgraded its harddrive to a 7200RPM 320GB drive that contains my Aperture Library.  I use Aperture’s Referenced Masters approach, with my RAW Masters sitting on a Drobo (see ‘Drobo Concerns’ at the end.)  When in my study at home working on my images, I work of an HP 2335 23” LCD monitor that I calibrate not often enough with the Spyder 2 Pro (Since updated.)

Let me also say that I bit intimated to post anything on Aperture as folks like Rob Boyer has done such a stellar job with his posts and eBooks.  Also, Montreal’s Patrick La Roque has contributed excellent posts about Aperture 3.  These guys and others have taught me tons about Aperture along the way.

1. FINDER COPY AND DVD BURN - I have about 12GB worth of compact flash cards that I work with.  Periodically,  sometimes after of a week or so, but sometimes only a weekend, or just one busy day, I’ll decide to do an import, and here are the steps I follow:


Firstly, I use Aperture’s ‘Referenced Masters’ to store my images outside the Aperture Library and on an external drive, a seond generation Drobo.  Using Finder, I create a Folder for the images using the following naming convention:
                           2011-03-06 Roll 369M2 Boulder Weekend
(I create this folder within an “2011” Folder, with my “Aperture Masters” Folder.)  The date format allows for sorts in time order in a Finder window.  To help in keeping track of them, I’ve taken to also numbering my import sessions and calling them ‘Rolls’. (e.g. ….Roll 639…)  Occasionally,I use other cameras, and the ‘M2’ is my shorthand for my Canon 5DM2, and finally, I put a short descriptor for the main theme if the images of the import (e.g. Hong Kong).  Then, using Finder, I copy all the images from all the cards into this folder. (I think I learned this tip from Allen Wicks, via a post on the Apple Discussions Forum). Sometime in 2011, I hope to move off my Drobo.  See below for my Drobo observations.


Alex Lindsey, via the TWIP podcasts, has taught me that “it doesn’t exist unless it’s in three places,” and for me, presently, one of those places is a backup to DVD.  I use an old version of  Roxio’s Toast to easily burn a Folder of images that Spanish across multiple DVDs.  (See §10 for a more complete description of my backup approach.)  When I do get off my Drobo and on to a pair of hardrives for my masters, I will probably stop burning DVDs as backup.

Only after this copy to my Drobo, and burn to DVD, do I feel comfortable erasing my compact flash cards.  (And when I do, I use “Format” on my Canon 5DM2 to erase the cards — it’s fast.)

2. IMPORT TO APERTURE - At this point, my images are in a Finder Folder on my Drobo (and burned to DVD).  I then use Aperture’s import function as follows:

  • In Aperture Toolbar, click the Import Icon arrow
  • The Inspector Pane will slide down to reveal your icons for your Mac (or Compact Flash if still connected)
  • I select my Mac, and then in the window below, navigate to the Finder Folder that contain the images for this import session (this causes all the images to appear in the import window, already selected.)
  • In Aperture’s Library Pane, I select the 2011 Projects Folder within my Photostore Folder  (This causes Aperture to automatically use the name of the Finder Folder I navigated to as the Project Name that will be created inside 2011 Projects and contain these images.)
  • In the Import Settings pane on the right, select the 'Leave Masters in Current Location' option since I use the Referenced Masters approach.
  • I enter metadata associated with the images to be imported (I primarily add copyright info.)
  • Finally, I click the ‘Import Checked’ at the bottom of the Import Pane.
  • Then I go for a run (with my camera :)  Or I do this at the end of the day and head up to bed if it’s a particularly large import.  There is a lot of processing with an import as thumbnails are created, and I don’t try to begin any editing of images until this step is completed. (I would just see the beach all often and get frustrated.  Running is better for me). I sometimes open the Aperture Activity window to keep an eye on import progress.
  • Also, I save a lot of screenshots on both my iPhone and iPad.  I import these screenshots along with my iPhone photographs and movies into dedicated Projects for iPhone and iPad. Since these images are not as big or as numerous, I simply store these Masters within the Aperture Library.

3. GROUPING INTO ALBUMS - I’ve organized my Aperture Library with the following Aperture Folders at the top level inside Apertures Projects & Albums section, in addition to my Photostore Folder (which holds the Aperture Projects) I have the following Folders:

  • Clients - Within this Aperture Folder, I create an Aperture Folders for each client shoot.  I’ll name the folder using the format: 2011-03-05 Madison Portrait.  (These  folders will contain albums and smart albums which I’ll describe in the ‘Sifting and  Sorting’ section below.)
  • Commercial Images - I have special folders for each image or set that I plan to sell commercially apart from Client work.  These contain albums which contain individual images or image sets, typically with multiple versions as I work on them.
  • Portfolio - Several Albums within this Folder contain my Portfolio.  I organize these by Portraits, Landscapes, Cityscapes, Boulder, Portraits-BW, etc.  These albums get pulled into my iPhone and iPad via iTunes syncing.
  • Albums - I go nuts on albums (and Smart Albums).  The don’t take up any disk space to speak of, and they provide you another way to find images months and years later.  Within this Albums Folder, some notable folders are:
  1. Sport Seasons - We have four children, and they’re all involved in sports.  I shoot from the sidelines of games I attend.  Within this ‘Sport Seasons’ folder, I have a series of folders, one per season for each of the kids sports, and name them like this:  2011-03 Soccer - Kate.  Within these folders I have a folder for the games I shoot, named in a similar manner: 2011-03-19 Soccer - Kate.  These  folders will contain an album for all the photos from a game and smart albums for rating and sorting which I’ll describe in the ‘Sifting and  Sorting’ section below.
  2. Events - This folder contains folders for Personal Projects and Family events, and are named in my same style, e.g. 2011-03-05 Boulder Velodrome.  
  • Slideshows - I am of two minds on organizing my slideshows.  Most times, especially if they’re standalone, I create them here, and they’re easy to find.  However, sometimes I create them within a Client or Event folder to preserve that grouping.  
  • Aperture Books - I’ve produced  over 100 books using the Aperture Book tool, which are lovely.  Sometime I create them with the corresponding Client or Event folders, but most times I create the books within this folder.

4. SIFTING AND SORTING - To quickly identify the best images from my client shoots and personal projects, I use a similar sifting and sorting approach with a series of Aperture Albums and Smart Albums outline below, using a technique taught to me by Boulder’s John Waugh in an Aperture Course that he taught at Boulder Digital Arts last year.

  • Shoot Album - into this Album, I drag all the images associated with the event from the Aperture Project folder where their masters reside.  I then buzz through the images in this Album and make a simple binary decision: Rate 1 Star, or Skip.  I use the Aperture Shortcuts to either rate the images explicitly (Hitting 1-5 to apply a 1-5 star rating) or I use the ‘CNTL +’ to increase the rating and move to the next image.)
  • Picks 1+ Smart Album - I create a Smart Album with the rule: Images With Rating greater or equal to 1.  This is automatically populated with the images that I rated “1 Star” in the previous step.  I then go through this set, which are all rated “1 Star or greater”’ and make another simple decision: bump them up to 2 stars, or leave them at 1.
  • Picks 2+ Smart Album - I repeat this process again, creating this Smart Album for images rated 2 or more stars, and go through them again, making the decision to bump them up another level to 3.  This successive approach is an easy way to cull down to a select set of images from a shoot.   Whether the goal is to select a small set for prints, to create a book, or produce a slideshows, this approach seems to be a fast and reliable way to get to my target number of picks. And a note on the objective itself:  my advice is to cut to the bone!  If you’re not leaving stuff on the cutting room floor that pains you, you’re not cutting enough!  This leaves only excellent images for your books or slideshows, and you’ll get ‘Wows.’
  • Picks 3+ Smart Album, Picks 4+ Smart Album…..Additional iterations as necessary per the previous step to get down to my targeted number of photos.  
  • Selects Album - Finally, I drag my final selects into an Album so I have a firm record of the results of the sort.   

Its hard sometimes to leave “good stuff” on the floor, but I’ve learned to cut deep — cut to the bone, and the resulting set of images become much stronger and appreciated.

5. ADJUSTMENTS - At this point, now that I’ve got my selects, I’ll do my edits on that subset.  My long term goal is to get as much right in the camera, but I do touch every image that I release.   Aperture adjustments are a topic to themselves, but I might typically use the following controls: Exposure, White Balance, Levels or Curves, Contrast, and Vibrancy, etc.

I buzz through these, taking about 10-15 seconds per images, but sometimes longer, depending on the nature of the projects.  The point is, even a few quick changes will dramatically improve an image.  Sometimes I ripple changes though several images with Lift and Stamp.  (The ‘Lift’ dialog box let’s you pick the adjustments from the selected image that you want to stamp, and eliminate the ones that would probably not make sense to stamp, like a crop or a rating.)

Since they’re so important to my use of Aperture, I should also say something about my mouse tools.  In the past year, I added a Magic Trackpad to my system as my primary “mouse”   I can place it right where I want it, no longer being limited to the trackpad on my MacBook Pro that is in a relatively fixed location in my workspace.  Coincident with that, I decided to switch mouse hands and give what had been my primary mouse hand a nice long rest.  I surprised even myself, after about only a week, my new mouse hand felt “normal”. I also use a  Wacom Tablet, especially since Aperture 3’s brush in adjustments became available.  

Finally, one of my goals for 2011, is to raise my proficiency with Black and White post production.  I’ve been fascinated by split toning especially after reading Andrew Gibson’s ‘The Magic of Black and White’ series of eBooks, published by Craft and Vision.  In addition to tons of reading on the subject, I’ve added Silver Efex Pro 2 to my toolset, and I love it.  I invoke it from within Aperture, selecting an image, and then using the “Edit With” option.  Upon completion of the Silver Efex Pro editing session, Aperture manages the Silver Efex Pro 2 versions, just as it does it’s other versions.  

And while I go to NIK for special images, I prefer to do adjustments natively in Aperture, which as you peel back the layers of the onion, and open up those disclosure triangles, you will see a wealth of editing power.  Patrick La Rogue in particular showed me the value of Aperture’s wheels  which do many things in addition to, as he has pointed out, Split toning!  Recently, @ltsolet has turned me on to Topaz Labs, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with their Adjust product.

When I’ve completed adjustments on images, I drag some of them into Albums that are located in my ‘Portfolio’ top level Aperture Folder, which I mentioned in Section 3. I have several Albums in this Aperture Folder, for example: Portraits, Landscapes, Portraits-BW.  (These will get synced to my iPad and iPhone — discuss in Section 9.)  I also explicitly create an Aperture Preview for these images, otherwise they will not sync to my iPad or iPhone, or show up in the Mac OS X Media Browser.   I have a massive library of about 250K images, and to conserve space in my Aperture Library which I store on the 320GB Hard Drive on my MacBook Pro, I don’t have Previews automatically generated.

6. APERTURE BOOKS - I love Aperture’s Book Tool and the lovely books that it produces.  I produce them for clients and family vacations, ‘annuals’ and special events (e.g. I just produced an 18-year compendium for our high school graduate.)  Once adjustments are completed, within Aperture, I create an ‘Aperture Book’, drag the versions I may use into it, and layout the book.  When I do adjustments to images that I know will be destined for books, usually don’t crop them (or I also leave an uncropped version when I do) since the book tool let’s you easily zoom in to part of an image when you lay out the book.  Uncropped images gives me the most flexibility as I craft each page layout.  I love the art of the page layout — the composition of each page spread is yet another way to have your photographs shine and tell a story.

7. APERTURE WEB JOURNALS - I need to do a lot more work on my website.  I presently use Aperture Web Journals that I drag into Apple’s iWeb to publish www.rockymountainjoe.com.  I’m considering moving to RapidWeaver to produce a better website, but I need to give this area some more of my attention thank I do now.  This is especially important since we’ve heard of the demise of iWeb (and MobileMe Galleries) since I’ve started writing this!


8. SLIDESHOWS- I used to produce more film-scored photo slideshows, and I used Final Cut Express.  It was a lot of work, and involved an export of images from Aperture, and import into Final Cut.  This was time consuming and burned lots of disk space.  I’m liking the Aperture Slideshow tool these days.  Recently, I’ve become interested in timelapses, and turning a timelapse set into a short video. Aperture’s Slideshow tool is fast and easy and perfect for this..  I drag in the set of images, pick an interval per image, and pull in a song from my iTunes Library via the Mac OS X Media Browser, and it’s ready, and Aperture gives me many options if I want to export it.

9. EXPORT AND PUBLISH – I export my image from Aperture many different ways in addition to direct “exports”.

a. iWeb – As I mentioned above, I presently use iWeb to produce my website.  It really is stopgap, but its been that way a while.  Within iWeb, using the Mac OS X Media Browser, I can navigate in my Aperture Folder hierarchy and find my Aperture Web Journals. I simply drag them into iWeb webpages, and use iWeb to publish them to my website at www.rockymountainjoe.com.  (As mentioned earlier, R.I.P. iWeb with Apple’s move to Lion and iCloud.)


b. MobileMe Galleries – In addition to my website, I use Aperture’s MobileMe export function to publish images to my web presence with Apple’s MobileMe.  I primarily use this to share images privately with clients.  I usually create an Album of the images I’ll share in this manner, then select all the images in that Album, and click the MobileMe icon in Aperture. (As mentioned earlier, R.I.P. MobileMe Galleries with Apple’s move to iCloud.)

c. Flickr – Every once in a while I’ll publish a set of photos to Flickr.  Similar to the approach I use for MobileMe, I create an Album of the images I’ll share on Flickr, then select all the images in that Album, and click on the Flickr icon.  Occasionally, I’ll drag additional images into an existing Aperture Flickr Album. I’ve seen many people complain about Aperture causing them to lose images on Flickr, but I’ve not had any problems with either of these approaches.  Since I’ve started drafting this, 500px.com has come bursting on the scene, and when I get my confidence, I’ll begin posting there.  At this writing, there is not yet an export plugin for 500px.com.  I’m sure it is  just a matter of time.

d. Facebook – I show the Facebook export option in my diagram above, but I’ve not yet exported and published images this way.  I have both a normal account and a “Fan Page” (www.facebook.com/rockymountainjoe) and I think I’ve seen some folks post that this function only allows them to publish to their account, not their Fanpage.

e/f. Sync to iPad and iPhone – Like many photographers, I like to have my portfolio with me, so I sync the Albums within my Portfolio Aperture Folder to both my iPhone and my iPad.  Within iTunes, I select my iPod or iPad (in Devices) and then select the Photos tab.  On that page, I can tell iTunes to sync photos from Aperture, and once I do that, I see my Aperture Folder Hierarchy and select the Albums (or Projects) that I want to sync. 

I’ve recently started using the FolioBook app on my iPad (upon the recommendation of Patrick La Roque of Montreal.  It’s slick.  On the iPad, I can quickly build a special Portfolio on the fly, and “lock it down” and hand the iPad to a Client.  They can then flip though the images I want them to look at, and not get lost in all the images in the Photo Library on my iPad.

10. VAULTS AND BACKUP

There’s the old quip: “There are two kinds of hard drives:  Those that have failed, and those that will fail.”  I back up several ways, each of these using SuperDuper, which I’ve used for years and highly recommend.  SuperDuper does incremental backups, and gives you an exact copy of your hard drive to a backup.

I’m careful to backup my images (the RAW files that come directly from my camera’s compact flash card), as well as the Aperture Library.  As time goes by, the metadata (albums, ratings, adjustments, books, keywords) becomes immensely valuable, and will enable future enjoyment of photographs.

a. Backup Macbook Pro Hard Drive to LaCie Rugged portable Hard Drive - I periodically  perform an incremental backup of my Macbook Pro’s hardrive.  In addition to everything else on my main drive, this drive contains my Aperture Library.  (SuperDuper makes this backup a “bootable” drive.)


b. Update  Aperture Vault to HD-3 - I also used Aperture’s “Vault” feature to backup my Aperture Library to an external drive.   Most of my images are Referenced (see ‘Managed vs. Referenced’ below) but in addition to all the metadata of my Aperture Library, this performs an incremental backup of the masters contained in the library, and of course all the generated previews and thumbnails.


c. Backup HD-3 Hard Drive to HD-5 Hard Drive - The external drive that contains my Aperture Vault also contains my iTunes Music Folder, digital projects and video files.  I use SuperDuper to make a backup of this entire drive.

Drobo Concerns - I have a second generation 4-bay Drobo that started with 1TB drives, and now has four 2TB drives.  Access speeds to the masters are slow as compared to a conventional external hardrive, which is the primary reason I want to move from the Drobo.  I’m also feeling a bit trapped there as I approach the capacity limit of the set of 2B drives.  And because of the RAID-like approach, while I’m protected  from a disk failure, the Drobo doesn’t protect me if the master file was somehow corrupted. (Which for now is why I perform the DVD backup as part of my import process.)  As soon as the price/reliability of a pair of Thunderbolt-based 4TB drives is within my grasp, I’m going to move to them and use SuperDuper for incremental backups.

Managed vs. Referenced - Project-based photographers who work on sets of image, and then deliver to customers and “put them on the shelf”, should consider having Aperture manage their masters.  They can use the Vault periodically to back up their work, and have an “annual” Library approach, creating a new Aperture Library every year.  This would keep library sizes small and give them simple backups.

My approach, using Reference images, works for me because of the kind of photographer I am — I want to have my entire family portfolio at my fingertips, or pull upon my keyworded images for a future project.  With an Aperture Smart Album, I can pull all the images that are keyworded with one of my children’s names, and rated 3 or more stars.  I’ve got a wonderful ‘bumpersticker’ collection that I may do something with someday.   An Aperture Library of my size (250K images) would be massive and not fit on my main drive in my Macbook Pro, which is where I want it for performance reasons.  So I used a Referenced Masters approach and keep my 155GB Aperture Library on my main drive in my Macbook Pro, and my Masters on my Drobo (for now).

I love the @rwboyer Nikon F3 Giveaway!
If you haven’t heard yet, head over the the RB Design blog, and check out the Nikon F3 Giveaway.  His tweets as he was formulating the giveaway happened to come across on the same day my oldest brought home his first set of negatives from his high school photography class.

In the image above he shooting one of the frames on that roll for a depth-of-field assignment.  I love the care that’s evident as he sets up this shot.   Something about these early SLRs and film really makes one cherish a single frame, compose it carefully and give it such individual attention.

I’m not going to throw my hat in the ring for the F3, but I encourage you to — if you think will put it to some good use.  I’m happy merely to be motivated now to take my own vintage SLR that I rescued via eBay last year.  In my case, its a Canon A-1 — in mint shape — that I’m sure has a lot of clicks left on it.   It’s been getting dusty, but I’m off to get some film!!!   Thanks for the motivation Rob!

I love the @rwboyer Nikon F3 Giveaway!

If you haven’t heard yet, head over the the RB Design blog, and check out the Nikon F3 Giveaway.  His tweets as he was formulating the giveaway happened to come across on the same day my oldest brought home his first set of negatives from his high school photography class.

In the image above he shooting one of the frames on that roll for a depth-of-field assignment.  I love the care that’s evident as he sets up this shot.   Something about these early SLRs and film really makes one cherish a single frame, compose it carefully and give it such individual attention.

I’m not going to throw my hat in the ring for the F3, but I encourage you to — if you think will put it to some good use.  I’m happy merely to be motivated now to take my own vintage SLR that I rescued via eBay last year.  In my case, its a Canon A-1 — in mint shape — that I’m sure has a lot of clicks left on it.   It’s been getting dusty, but I’m off to get some film!!!   Thanks for the motivation Rob!

Regenerated Thumbnails in Apple Aperture: Saved 60GB with 16 days of Processing

“WTF”, I muttered to myself sometime during the last year when I ran OmniDiskSweeper, and discovered that the Thumbnails folder inside my Aperture Library was well over 150GB. So I started looking around for what to do about it.

These posts on Aperture performance and Thumbnail disk usage, in particular, helped me get to courage to take the steps I outline below.

OK.  So these are the steps I followed:

  1. First of all, my Aperture Library began in early 2007 as a import from iPhoto to Aperture 1.5, and has been upgraded to Aperture 2, Aperture 3 (man, that was a long wait) and now, 3.1.1.  I’m running on a 2.3GHz MacBook Pro, maxed out with 3GB of memory. I mostly use Referenced Masters with my Aperture Library on my Macbook Pro, and my Masters on external drives (a Drobo, but that’s another story….)  My Aperture Library had about 213K images across 754 projects.
  2. I backed up my Macbook Pro’s hard drive using SuperDuper.
  3. I followed Klaus’s steps and cleared out my cache.
  4. Then on Sunday, November 28th, yikes, following Klaus’s steps, I deleted the Thumbnails folder inside my Aperture Library (and the available space on my hard drive when from about 15GB to 171GB!)
  5. Then I started Aperture, noticed the ‘Processing’ indicator and opened the Activity window, and saw a status count incrementing (to 212,787!)
  6. I mostly let Aperture alone as it generated new Thumbnails.  Over the course of the next two weeks, it did occasionally seem to freeze on me.  I’d do a Force Quit, and restarted it, and the Activity Window would show it counting forward, this time to a reduced target.
  7. On weekends, when I just left the machine otherwise idle, it would seem to generate about 15K thumbnails.  On weekdays during the day, I’d need to do my daytime job (email, web, powerpoint), so it would keep running, but generate the Thumbnails at a slower rate.
  8. I was due to leave on business travel on Monday, December 13th, and, based on my  estimates, it would have been completed, but for most of that Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday, was working in Aperture producing Photo Books for Christmas gifts, and I cancelled the Thumbnail regeneration activity while working on the books.
  9. When I left on Monday midday for my business travel (taking my old 12” Macbook Pro) I left my machine cranking away generating Thumbnails with 51K still to complete.
  10. I returned Saturday, December 16, to find the Activity Window empty of activities, with all Thumbnails finally regenerated.  When I selected Aperture to poke around, it froze.  I did a Force Quit on it, rebooted the Macbook Pro, and everything seems fine  and fast.
  11. The Thumbnails folder in my Aperture Library went from 155GB to 95GB, still a pig, but with about 16 days of continuous processing, I had reduced it by 60GB!!  And my hard drive now had just under 75GB head room.   It was a long and tedious journey, but worth it.

Special Thanks to @TechPatio, @ApertureLand and Matthew Bergsma of the Pacific Northwest.